Walking from our gate to baggage claim Sunday afternoon, we encountered a family of four stopped at the bottom of the stairs, surrounded by their bags, in the midst of a huge family hug-complete with smiles and tears. The kids (the boy was about 5 and the girl was about 7) were finished with the hugging business before Mom and Dad and were waiting patiently. In a bit, Dad stepped back and opened his arms really wide, and with a huge smile said, “I am so glad to see you all. We are finally altogether after being apart for 5 weeks this summer.”
The boy replied, in a most serious voice, “I know, Dad. I haven’t seen you in 20 days. It was so long!”
The Dad’s most perfect response to his child was, “Yes it was such a long time and I missed you so much.” The math was perfect, as well, in the fact that it was a perfect opportunity to talk about how long 20 days are and how long 5 weeks feels. Maybe not right at that moment, as they had to get their things at baggage claim, but perhaps in the car or on Monday afternoon…
And then there was Monday…Move into the College Dorm Day
We live on the other side of the country from the University my daughter attends-so we store her things with a local company. Great service. You buy their boxes. You pack up your stuff. They come pick it up and store it for the summer. Then, like magic, they bring it back to you in the fall on move-in day. Way better than renting a storage unit, renting a car, finding boxes, carrying the boxes up and down the stairs (if, like freshman year, you live in a building without an elevator), taking it to the storage place 3 minutes before they close-and it’s REALLY, REALLY dark and scary, and then trying to make your plane. Love the guys who take care of the boxes!!! We just show up and the boxes appear. The guys who make this happen are awesome.
The confirmation email said, “We’ll be there between 10 am and 4 pm!” Wait a minute. Up until this time, we always had a 2-hour window for the delivery time. Okay, we’ll be optimistic. They are starting on her side of the campus and we’ll be in the morning. So, we unpacked the 3 suitcases we brought with us-despite the missing dresser. We neatly stacked everything that belonged in the dresser on the desk. Hung up the towels in the bathroom. Made the bed-minus the comforter and the pillows-which were in the boxes that had yet to show up…and waited and waited. It was a really long time before the boxes appeared.
The boxes arrived about 4:45 pm.
Although it had only been about 7 hours, it felt like days – like 20 days – like 5 weeks!!
While we were NOT patiently waiting, we talked about how much we despise waiting — waiting in line, waiting for boxes to arrive, waiting to get to that important day. And, we talked about how sometimes we want time to slow down so that summer is NOT over, vacation is not ending.
We have a system for measuring time-seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries. Time flies. Time crawls. Time stands still. Time rushes by.
We have tools for measuring time: clocks, calendars, stop watches, timers. And they are everywhere, like this clock I found above a restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan…
Yet, with all of these tools, placed throughout the world right before us, how is it that 20 days can be the same as 5 weeks? Well, it is all about the context. So talk with your kids about how time feels and how time has this cool math component-we can measure it, organize it, quantify it. Yet, we still feel it. Yes, 20 days to a 5 year old feels like forever. And 20 days in a lifetime of 102 years might feel differently, or it might feel the same. But, mathematically, the proportion of the days to the years of the life are vastly different. But both are equally important to the person. So perhaps we should think about, and discuss, the feeling of time and the math of time and how, sometimes, we just don’t know everything.
Regardless of whether we have all of the answers, I hope you enjoy your time. And enjoy your math conversations!
Oh-and the dresser-well, the dresser arrived the next day…